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Tuesday, January 16, 2018

A Style for Each – Control

September 30, 2011 by  
Filed under FAQ, In-Depth FAQ


Welcome back, fellow EDH-ers. hope you had enjoyed last guide article for building Aggro. As you probably had read and understood from last article the Pros and Cons of Aggro. That Aggro is the fast and furious Play Style which tries to out play your opponents, running threats after threats at them, not giving them a chance to develop their board. Its weaknesskis that it has little to no solution cards and could sometimes cost you the game when you most need them. It is also prone to the danger of over developing as you need to keep the pressure on. For this article we shall look at a much slower Play Style, Control.


A Threat Ain’t One if it Ain’t Active



In short, Control is all about buying yourself time while waiting for your kill con to come. Control style of play is to focus on controlling, neutralizing threats as you, slowing down the opponent development during the early game while building your own board advantage; then totally own’d them by dropping a big threat which they can’t deal with. Hence most of the time you be the defensive one instead of the offensive one, reacting to your opponents, preparing for any surprises they may have against you. Common ways employ to buy time are Counterspells (not the actual card but referring to the group of spells which counters other spells), Denial and Disruption.


Unlike in normal variant, Hard Counterspells are much prefer over Soft Counterspells. For those who do not understand that sentence back there, Hard Counterspells are those which counter a spell straightaway, while on the other hand Soft Counterspells are those which still counter a spell but allow the controller of the spell to pay a cost to prevent it from being counter. In normal variant, Soft Counterspells are good for breaking the Tempo of other decks. But in EDH these costs of Soft Counterspells are usually easily payable rendering them ineffective. Good Hard Counterspells choices are the following:-

  • Commandeer / Desertion / Spelljack – All these Counterspells do the same thing. They counter the threat and turn it against the caster. Nothing beats after neutralizing your opponents’ threat and then beating them up with their own stuff
  • Counterspell – The pioneer lot of Counterspells. A considerable choice when more Counterspells are needed
  • Cryptic Command – Versatility against many situations with its four options: Countering of spells; Bouncing of permanents; Card drawing; Tapping of all your opponents creatures
  • Force of Will – There is nothing to complain about a FREE Counterspell. Veteran players know best the power of this card
  • Hinder – As EDH decks are huge, countering and putting the threat on the bottom of a library is a better option instead of sending it to the graveyard. This is because the chances of drawing the threat again will be harder and more made so if the opponent has no way to shuffle his or her library. This is also largely due to the fact that most EDH decks packs recursion of some sorts. Sending the threat to the graveyard could result to it coming back to haunt you sooner than you thought
  • Mana Drain – One of the top Counterspells in normal variant and still the best in EDH. The extra Mana allow you to free up your own Mana while developing your board
  • Spell Burst – Mana-intensive but Buyback allows for repeatable counter


The other tactic which is used is through Denial. In this sense, Control Play Style will try to control your opponents by locking them down, slowing down or denying them of development. Lock could be separated into a Soft Lock, which your opponents could still get out from, and a Hard Lock, which usually ends your opponent happy evening. Either way, both locks slow down everyone greatly but since you are the one who introduce the lock, you will be more well prepared and less affected it.  Besides locking down your opponent, Denial also means denying your opponent of resources. A continuous effect could be used to keep your opponents resources in check. Another way is to tax your opponent for everything they want to do, meaning they need to pay a cost to cast spells, attack you or even keep their stuff on the battlefield. The following are some of the cards used for this tactic:-


Last but least, you could use Disruption to further control your opponent. Sometimes threats may get through your Counterspells and hit the battlefield; you will have to deal with it by outright destroying it or bouncing it back to your opponent’s hand. This is disruptive to Aggro decks as they will lose their tempo when you kill off their creatures. Hand Disruption is also one way to deal with opponent as an empty hand means lesser things to worry about. These are some of the options you could consider when choosing cards for this genre:-

  • Barter in Blood – A good way to clear creature threat especially those with shroud
  • Damnation / Wrath of God & Friends – The two most iconic creature mass removal with many others which does the same thing with some added effects (mainly in white). Though point to note that these spells could be very political to cast in EDH as you may become everyone best friend for clearing all the creatures of one guy saving the others from defeat; or everyone enemy for clearing their creatures, further made worse if the spell you cast gave you some creatures back (Kirtar’s Wrath; March of Souls; Martial Coup; Phyrexian Rebirth)
  • Myojin of Night’s Reach – This card effectively reads 5BBB each opponent discards their hand
  • Rootrunner + Hana Kami + Death Denied – This combo disrupt the land growth while also denying your opponent a new card draw. Rootrunner will put the land on top of the library which would Soulshift and brings back Hana Kami who would return Death Denied for more recursion of Rootrunner
  • Syphon Mind – Normally deemed weak in normal variant, this card becomes a power card in EDH. Besides discarding one card from each opponent, you get to refill your hand too for each card discarded this way



As EDH is mainly play in multi-player games, you will find that you have too much to handle for each game. Most of the time you need to brainstorm whether to counter that spell, which opponent’s hand or land to disrupt, can you handle it after locking down everyone, or is it wise to destroy everyone creatures. Locks used in this Play Style could also be easily broken by the combined effort of all your opponents. You tend to be the main target once you starts to gain your board advantage too. All in all, Control is not an easy Play Style to master as you tend to become the public enemy for most of the decision you made in the games. Although not totally impossible to play on its own in EDH, It is usually played combined with other Play Style as a sub theme. That said, these cards could be consider to make playing Control as your major Play Style:-


In general, as EDH is played with multiple players (unless you are playing in 1v1 EDH), it is a good idea to pack some tutoring in the deck to search for your kill con to prevent opponents from ganging up and overthrow your control as the game drags on for too long.


Generals of Choice:

  • Azami, Lady of Scrolls: – Wizard tribal theme. Color Identity allows maximum control as Blue is the best color for Counterspells and control spells. Azami’s ability of tapping your Wizards to refill your hand also ensures you would not run out of steam.

  • Dralnu, Lich Lord: – A good combination of Color Identity with Blue as Control and Black as Disruption. Added bonus of recurring spells which you had used.

  • Erayo, Soratami Ascendant: – The most broken Control General. The true power of this General comes when it is flipped and becomes an Enchantment. This is made easy since Erayo, Soratami Ascendant is considered as one spell count as you cast it, leaving you with just three more spells to go in order to fulfill the requirement. Combines with Arcane Laboratory for maximum Control.

  • Grand Arbiter Augustin IV: – A good General which controls your opponents casting power while increasing our own. Color Identity of Augustin also fits well into Control Play Style.

  • Wydwen, the Biting Gale:- Nice General who could protect itself while having a good Control Color Identity of Blue for countering & control and Black for disruption.


So to summarize this whole article, it is essential for your Control deck to be pack with Locks for the deck to work effectively and buying the time needed to gain board advantage over your opponents. Counterspells chosen are usually Hard Counterspell. In addition to having Counterspells, other spells are needed to control threats which escaped your Counterspells. Lastly Hand Disruption and Permanent Disruption are also needed to further hinder your opponents’ development. So with all that said, we will leave it here for Archetype Control.


This is yours truly, Edward “Reaper King” Leong, signing off.



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